Britain's trade union for academics has "zero tolerance for racisms of color, but a great deal of tolerance for anti-Semitism," a leading lawyer suggested in court Monday.
"There is zero tolerance for racist language where it's racist against [people of] color, but a great deal of tolerance where it's against Jews," added attorney Anthony Julius, who has represented Princess Diana and historian Deborah Lipstadt and is an expert on anti-Semitism.
Julius was cross-examining Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), which has been taken to an employment tribunal by a freelance mathematics lecturer, Ronnie Fraser, over allegations that it is institutionally anti-Semitic. Hunt is the lead witness for the respondent, which is presenting just four witnesses after more than 30 testified for the claimant.
The case hinges on whether anti-Zionist debate within the union spilled into anti-Semitism.
Earlier in the day the court heard from non-Jewish Member of Parliament John Mann, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism, which in 2006 published an official, extensive report into anti-Semitism in Britain.
In a follow-up meeting with UCU, he said, Hunt and other UCU officials wanted to talk about anti-Semitism on university campuses, but refused to discuss anti-Semitic discourse in their own ranks.
This was "unusual and unique in hundreds of meetings," he said. UCU was "the only institution not prepared to enter into any debate or discussion of the findings...
"There was an incredible reluctance to admit there was anything to discuss - I found this astonishing. I was quite gobsmacked that one of the institutions wasn't prepared to [discuss] the issue of anti-Semitism. There was no one else not prepared to do so.
It does seem rather strange, to put it mildly. Anti-Semitism is a form of racist prejudice and there's a concern about it amongst some of the members; the union is committed to anti-racist policies; but it declines a discussion of the issue.